As COVID-19 surges into record territory again in Texas, two of the state’s leading physician organizations and Texas teachers are warning about the risks of ending online learning.
In a letter to state education leaders, Texas Medical Association President Dr. Diana Fite and Texas Pediatric Society President Dr. Seth Kaplan indicate that the time just isn’t right for school districts to dismantle online learning and force kids back to the classroom.
“School policies must not put high-risk members of the community at unnecessary medical risk, disadvantage families advised by a physician that virtual learning remains in their best interest, or undermine public health efforts to slow the surge of COVID-19 already happening in our state,” Fite and Kaplan wrote. “Completely discontinuing virtual learning at this time fails all three tests.”
The doctors are requesting three things:
- All Texas schools preserve family choice between either in-person or virtual learning during the pandemic.
- Medical exemption determinations for high-risk students and healthy students who live with high-risk people.
- Facilitating a transition to another learning option and paying associated costs and fees for students disenrolled by a district that stops providing online learning.
The Texas State Teachers Association is going a step further and demanding that Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency intervene and require all school districts to continue virtual learning as an option for the remainder of the school year without any loss of funding.
“The state leadership has to quit pretending that Texas is returning to ‘normal,’” stated TSTA President Ovidia Molina. “Texas reported more than 10,000 new COVID cases yesterday, and more than 6,700 Texans were hospitalized with the disease. This is not normal. This is dangerous, and it is dangerous for school districts to deprive students of the virtual learning option.”
There have been more than 39,000 student and staff cases of COVID-19 reported since the start of the school year. Some schools have been forced to close in-person instruction for days at a time because of outbreaks on their campuses. The state keeps a running total of the number of cases in schools, but it does not report when schools have to close.
“Parents need more transparency about how prevalent the spread of COVID is in Texas communities,” Molina said.